Transparency and regenerative farming are key parts of the new direct-to-consumer company Secteur 6.
Amit and Puneet Hooda have been developing the company for the last two years with Amit Hooda, based near Boulder, Col., and Puneet Hooda, working from India, trying to parlay their expertise about organics from the food industry to the fashion industry. The brothers also started Heavenly Organics, a chocolate and food company that has distribution in 13,000 doors.
That company promotes responsible agriculture. Regenerative farming is something that they learned about through their father, I.S. Hooda, an agronomist who pioneered regenerative ways to grow food. Before launching Secteur 6, the Hooda brothers worked with farmers that they know through their organic food venture. They wanted to ensure environmental practices and certifications were in order for the fashion industry, Amit Hooda said.
About 50 independently owned farmers provide the organic cotton and other materials for the collection. The Secteur 6 sportswear includes joggers, bomber jackets, caftans and dresses and is made from such organic products as cotton, bamboo and rose-petal silk.
From a manufacturing standpoint, the founders wanted to make sure that workers were treated well, and were not “working 14 hours a day, six to seven days a week,” Amit Hooda said. To try to create a more collaborative culture, workers are trained to make a variety of styles instead of focusing on one specific garment. Sixteen people are employed by Secteur 6 and receive 20 to 50 percent above the minimum wage, as well as health insurance, according to the company.
Secteur 6 is built on six pillars: transparency, regenerative farming, workers rights/advancing workers, biodegradable materials, gender equality and preserving local culture. The founders said they built a factory in New Delhi after they couldn’t find one that met their standards. By using regenerative farming, Secteur 6 uses 30 to 40 percent less water with zero pesticides.
They said they have invested $1.5 million in Secteur 6, including building the air-conditioned, spacious factory where workers are provided meals daily. Noting how the fashion industry often deprived people of basic human rights and given how hot the weather in India can be, Secteur 6 offers workers health insurance for their families, stipends for workers if they what to get upskilled and education opportunities for their children, among other benefits.
With Secteur 6’s aforementioned principles in place, the brothers said they want to hold themselves accountable to avoid the typical negative impact that fashion can have on factories and the workers. They hope that once other companies see what they are doing, those companies will want to adopt similar socially-responsible efforts or standards. “We pay them, take care of their health, nourish them. In an ethical society, whatever nutrients are taken out of the ground are put back without the use of any chemicals, or heavy water use,” Amit Hooda said.
Opposed to the term sustainability, he said given the world’s population of more than seven billion people, “We cannot sustain how we live. We have to regenerate and restore. That’s why these six principles are important today. If we just sustain our lifestyle, I don’t think there are enough resources on the planet.”
While residents in cities like New York and San Francisco may not see firsthand how the planet is dying — as evidenced by plastics in the ocean and other detrimental practices — it is more evident in places like Chile, Africa and India, they said. To try to get consumers more interested in regenerative efforts, Secteur 6’s launch campaign was “We are the ‘RE Generation.’”
“Our hope is that a lot of people will get excited that it is economically viable. It’s possible to do this. The brand has take ownership of their impact. They can’t push it out to a third party,” Amit Hooda said. “It’s like a game of telephone. A brand wants to be sustainable but then they will outsource it to somebody else, who will outsource is to come one else. Then by the time it hits the ground, there’s hardly an impact [protecting the environment]. It’s more of a marketing tool.”